Monday, April 6, 2009

Practice and Persistence - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XII.06

Meditation XII.06 – Practice and Persistence - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

Practice yourself even in the things which you despair of accomplishing.1 For even the left hand, which is ineffectual for all other things for want of practice, holds the bridle more vigorously than the right hand; for it has been practiced in this.2


(1) The Greco-Roman concept of excellence, goodness or virtue, was captured in the word arête. It meant living up to your full potential by fulfilling your purpose or function. For the Stoic this means living according to nature, and fulfilling your particular role - to the best of your natural ability. Furthermore whatever role you have in the scheme of things is exactly the role nature has assigned to you. Discovering that role requires knowing yourself – a meditative process that requires persistence – and then perfecting that role – a practical process requiring earnest and dedicated practice.

(2) We can presume from this that Marcus was right handed. As a Stoic though he would certainly reverse the language for left handed people, noting that handedness was assigned by nature. But as the comment aptly observes, both hands are capable of excellence when trained. So too with virtue – practice makes perfect.

Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.

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